Selling the Wii U: Online Play, Third-Party Support, and Blood
When Nintendo ushered in the Wii U at this year's E3 in Los Angeles, gamers everywhere reacted to it in different ways. Some thought it was a new controller. Others thought it was the second coming of Christ and were desperate to learn more about it. Still others considered it a long overdue foray into the HD space from the Big N. Each of these responses is justifiable, especially when you take into account how Nintendo kept much about the system, outside of the controller's features and the HD specs, a mystery.
To compete on the same level as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, does the Wii U need to conform to modern video game standards? The Wii featured graphics that were one generation behind its competitors, a weak online component that was a total hassle to use, and piles of shovelware that consisted mainly of family-friendly titles that no hardcore gamer would ever dream of touching. Despite those flaws, the console succeeded and became the best-selling console of its generation. So why has Nintendo decided to cater to the fan base who would primarily own an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3? Because Nintendo wants to market the Wii U.
Online play has become a mainstay of modern gaming culture. Countless gamers refuse to buy the Wii due to its shortage of online titles and tedious WiFi connectivity. The Xbox 360 offers gamers a paid subscription service that is unparalleled. Meanwhile, PlayStation 3 owners are treated to a free online component that has its drawbacks but does offer quality online multiplayer, a digital shop, and more. Since the Wii U's reveal, Nintendo and other publishers have been talking nonstop about the Wii U's online component. Will Friend Codes disappear? Will they be tweaked to work a lot better than they do now? Will the new Wii U online experience be a lot closer to what Xbox Live and PlayStation Network currently offer?
If Nintendo hopes to attract the majority of today's hardcore gamers, the Wii U is going to have to present a better, much more robust online service than what the Wii has on hand now. Gamers should be able to jump in and out of online games at will, much like they can on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Trading elaborate Friend Codes is a nuisance, and if Nintendo wants to thrive in the online gaming space, the Wii U is going to need a sleek menu with plenty of options and a streamlined username system. Online gaming is a major part of every console, and without an easy-to-use component, the Wii U will likely suffer criticism from the gaming community.
Wii U needs to accomplish what the Wii didn't. During its entire lifespan, the Wii has been the console to shun third-party devs. Due to the system's archaic specs and the aforementioned lack of quality online functionality, the Wii has received little to no third-party support. Sure, the occasional gem pops up every so often, but the main reason to even own a Wii is the console's Nintendo-licensed exclusives. Gamers want franchises like Assassin's Creed and Batman on the same console as The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario. In the days of the Super Nintendo, third-party titles were just as widespread as Nintendo's flagship series.
Thankfully, if Nintendo's presser at E3 was any indication, gamers will see stellar third-party support return to the Big N's next console. Developers seem intrigued at the prospect of the Wii U. They want to develop games for the console and experiment with the controller. They want to take full advantage of the new control method to provide a unique experience that allows for cross features between the television screen and the Wii U controller's 6.2 inch touchscreen. And because of the advanced hardware, these third-party developers don't have to feel alienated. It's no longer troublesome downgrading a game's graphics and physics just to port it to a Nintendo console. If anything, it's possible that developers will now be working on Wii U games first before developing their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 counterparts. Thanks to Nintendo's decision to create a bold new controller and use console specs similar to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, third-party devs are now more welcome than ever to create games for Nintendo.
Just like third-party companies are no longer ostracized, more adult ideas are also encouraged. The Wii is known for its family-friendly appeal, and though a handful of Mature-rated titles exist on the system, it isn't exactly celebrated for its collection of adult-oriented releases. Everyone loves Mario. Link is one of the most cherished characters in gaming. And Samus Aran is a famous video game hottie. But aside from all the cheery characters, even the most dedicated Nintendo fans like to see a little blood. No More Heroes and MadWorld spring to mind as two of the Wii's most unique games because of their mature content and subject matter. To top it off, they were pretty damn good from a gameplay design standpoint, too.
While Nintendo was showing off game demos during the press conference, a surprising amount of blood lit up their screens. Ninja Gaiden 3, Metro: Last Light, and Aliens: Colonial Marines all demonstrated pretty visuals and plenty of blood to go around. To me, this was Nintendo's way of saying, "Blood sells, and we know that. Here you go, long-time gamers." It almost seemed like Nintendo was entering a new era of self -exploration. Nintendo was trying to communicate to the older, hardcore gamer that the Wii U could provide.
Of course, the Wii U isn't going to fall in stride behind the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Aside from the promises of online play, third-party support, and mature content, Nintendo also showcased some simple tech demos of games for the whole family. A Wii Sports-like title was seen during the presser, and its inclusion easily indicates that Nintendo will keep creating content for the fan base they accrued with the Wii. Grannies, children, and game night-loving families will be equally as welcome to enjoy the Wii U as the 17 and older demographic.
Nintendo didn't stop there. No, the folks over at the Big N felt like they had one last base to cover: the die-hard Nintendo fan. Though we didn't see any official first-party reveals, tech demos for the tentatively titled Super Mario Mii and The Legend of Zelda HD were revealed, and they were pretty damn impressive. Super Mario Mii offered more of that same Mario charm that gamers have come to expect from the series, but it provided something that the series is known for, as well: pure fun. Zelda HD, on the other hand, was intended to show just how awesome a Zelda game could look with snazzy visuals. The verdict: it looked freaking amazing. Both of these titles proved that Nintendo wouldn't forget about the core fan--the gamer who loves Nintendo exclusives such as Donkey Kong, Kirby, Zelda, and--yes--Mario.
So how is the Wii looking at first glance? Like a machine with a ton of potential--potential that Nintendo themselves need to exploit as they move away from the Wii and bring forward a new gaming experience. Online multiplayer, third-party support, and blood sell. So does family-friendly content. And let's not forget about Nintendo's classic franchises. The Wii U looks to cover all these bases, and if Nintendo can get off to a strong start by producing an optimal gaming experience that caters to every type of gamer, you can bet the new platform will sell like crazy.